WHITE PAPER ON LAND POLICY
Commercial farmers are very much affected by the land reform program as commercial farmland is often targeted for land reform whether by means of restitution, redistribution or tenure reform. The agricultural sector is a key industry in South Africa. This sector has managed to keep ahead of population growth in respect of food production. South Africa is also one of only seven countries in the world which is a net exporter of foodstuffs. The commercial agricultural sector together with co-operatives, producers of inputs for farming and processing industries which process food harvested on farms provide approximately 1,7 million jobs in this country. After gold and minerals agriculture is also South Africa's greatest source of foreign exchange earnings.
The effect of agriculture on the GDP is illustrated by the following quotation from an article that appeared in Business Day on 31 May 1996: "Economic growth is crawling along at snail's pace in most sectors of the economy - except agriculture. Central Statistical Service figures show that non-farm economy grew only 0,6% in the first quarter, but a massive turnaround in agriculture masked the dismal state of affairs lifting overall GDP growth in the first quarter to an unexpectedly high 3,3%". The White Paper does not seem to take these important contributions by the agricultural sector to growth, employment and food security into consideration.
We would also like to make use of this opportunity to put the perception that white farmers own 87% of the surface area of South Africa in context. We would like you to consider the following figures. According to our research the total surface area of South Africa comprises some 122,3 million hectares, of this 98,9 million hectares can be described as agricultural land. Of the 98,9 million hectares 68,4 million is owned by commercial farmers. This means that commercial farmers own about 56% of all land in South Africa and 69% of agricultural land - not 87%. It should also be noted that a large percentage of the 69% agricultural land (more than 30%) is situated in the arid areas of the country where conditions for agricultural production are not ideal and large tracts of land are needed to make a living from farming.
We have the following general points of criticism against the White Paper:
1. Farmers are in our view not always properly compensated when their land is taken for land reform purposes. When a particular piece of land is awarded to claimants in terms of the restitution process or is designated for settlement in terms of Act 126 of 1993 it may also affect the market value of adjoining properties in a negative way. The devaluation of agricultural land is a serious concern to us.
2. Large numbers of people are often settled on a single farm. This may happen as a result of a settlement in terms of Act 126 of 1993 or as a result of a successful restitution claim. Often the situation reverts to one of open access where people who were not intended to benefit also move onto the land. The land is then overutilised and in the end the resource is depleted and the beneficiaries can no longer make a living from it.
3. We have very little high potential agricultural land in South Africa. Only 12% of the surface area is arable and only about 4% is high potential. We believe that agricultural land should be reserved for agricultural purposes to produce the much needed food and fibre. No provision is made for this in the White Paper.
4. State land should be made available for land reform purposes on a much larger scale than is presently the case. Sensitive nature areas should however be protected as far as possible.
Farmers experience various problems with the different land reform programmes. These problems are inter alia:
It takes many months from the moment that a claim is gazetted until the moment it is finalised. This causes all sorts of problems. Claimants sometimes get frustrated and invade the land. Farmers have difficulty in obtaining finance to continue with their farming activities as financial institutions perceive financing them a risk because of the land claim and the uncertainty about compensation.
Farmers who decide to defend a land claim because they regard it as an invalid claim or because they do not believe that they are being offered just compensation face high legal and valuation costs. Landowners do not normally qualify for legal aid while most claimants receive legal aid or assistance.
Redistribution mostly takes place on the basis that a large number of households pool the R15 000 grants which they receive from the state to buy a single farm. This almost always leads to the degradation of the resource which cannot sustain so many people. It also leads to poverty because the people are unable to make a living from the land as there is not enough land to sustain such members. These kind of settlements often occur in the middle of commercial fanning areas with the result that the market values of adjoining properties fall dramatically and the area is often destabilised.
Settlements in terms of Act 126 of 1993 are done without proper consultation or planning. Sometimes the local authority is not even consulted and no provision is made for the supply of water and sanitation. We believe that all role-players, including organised agriculture should be consulted before land is designated for settlement and that proper environmental impact studies and planning should be done.
3. Tenure Security
The Extension of Security of Tenure Act will have many negative consequences. It will cause farmers to be reluctant to supply housing on their properties and to upgrade existing housing.
Where land is allocated to beneficiaries, we believe that it should be done on the basis of individual ownership.
These are just some points of criticism against the White Paper. Policies which seem fair and feasible on paper often prove to be impractical and unfair when implemented. It is therefor necessary to carefully consider the practical implications of the land reform policy.
We trust that you will take the above-mentioned points in consideration when debating the White Paper. Kindly note that the SAAU's oral submission will not necessarily be limited to the points raised in this document.